Stage Fright - Capitol 1970
At the same time things were beginning to get more complicated for some members of the Band. Their commercial success meant money, and money meant temptations and easy access to drugs. At the time of the recordings of "Stage Fright" all three singers were taking heroin, and this obviously influenced the record and to some extent changed the sound of their vocals.
Though Robertson managed to write some lyrics that fit his original idea of a basic light-hearted rock album; other songs deal with darker sides of life.
Opening song, "Strawberry Wine", sung and co-written by Levon Helm is a blues fitting nicely into the original concept.
This is the last album where singer Richard Manuel contributes original material, and Robertson had to help him finish his two songs. "Sleeping" is a beatiful pianoballad with a rocking chorus; obviously sung by Manuel.
"Time to Kill" has a great catchy guitar intro and rocks on nicely with Danko and Manuel sharing the lead vocals.
The second Manuel song is "Just Another Whistle Stop", which features another fine intro, and it is also one of the few Band studi-recording with an extended guitar-solo from Robertson.
All four opening tracks bear the high quality mark of the Band, but the first really outstanding track is Robertson's beautiful lullaby/ballad "All La Glory". This is such a great song with Helm doing one of his best ever recorded vocals.
The dark theme is coming forward on the next rocker "The Shape I'm In" - sung by Manuel.
The slightly jazzy "W.S. Walcott Medicine Show" is quite amusing featuring different brass instruments, but lyrically the song show a serious side of Robertson's songwriting.
The original album was ended with 3 more outstanding Band songs; all personal favourites of mine.
"Daniel and the Sacred Harp" is a country/folky song telling a the story of Daniel in a similar way the Dylan told the story of "Frankie Lee and Judas Priest". It's always a thrill when the three singers share the verses and all join in on the chorus.
The title track sung by Rick Danko, was an immediate live-favourite and one Danko finest performances; which says a lot.
"The Rumor" is another outstanding ballad, again with all singers taking lead verses. A worthy final the a great album.
The album is often regarded as a step downhill for the Band; I don't see it that way - it's a little different, yes, but just a strong as its predecessors.
The new version of the album features some interesting alternate versions, but none ot them matches the original recordings.